Australian Open: Ferrer pulls out best tennis for Nishikori and books date with compatriot Almagro

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FOURTH seed David Ferrer cruised past Kei Nishikori yesterday with what he described as “one of the best matches of my career at the Australian Open”.

Nishikori, the 16th seed, offered little threat to the Spaniard, who won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes to advance to his third successive quarter-final in Melbourne.

Ferrer broke twice in each of the first two sets to set up a comfortable win. The third was wild as Nishikori started to go for broke but, hampered by a knee injury, he failed to seriously threaten Ferrer’s chances of victory.

The fourth seed said: “It was a tough match, but in the first two sets I didn’t make any mistakes. Today I played very well. It was one of the best matches of my career at the Australian Open. I’m happy with my game.”

His run this week means Ferrer will move into the top four of the world rankings, but the modest 30-year-old admits he is some way behind established quartet Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and the injured Rafael Nadal. He added: “I am only in the top four because Rafa has been injured for a long time. That is the truth.

“I think the top four, they are better (than me).”

Ferrer will take on another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, in the last eight after he advanced when Janko Tipsarevic had to withdraw through injury. Serbian Tipsarevic won his previous two matches in five sets, but was trailing 6-2, 5-1 when he pulled out with a jarred heel. Almagro said: “That’s not the way you want to win, but that’s sport. Sometimes you can’t do your best and you need to stop. I think he made the best decision.”

Almagro, seeded number 10, has lost all 12 of his previous matches with Ferrer, but is hoping to buck that trend and reach his first grand slam semi-final. “It will be a good fight. I know him and he knows me,” he said. “It is a big opportunity for me to be in a semi-final. I’m ready to fight. I’m healthy and happy with my tennis.”

Meanwhile, big-hitting Czech Tomas Berdych is determined not to let missed opportunities ruin his chances of going further than he has ever gone before at the Australian Open.

The fifth seed survived an epic third-set tiebreak against 6ft 8in South African Kevin Anderson, winning it 15-13 to clinch a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 victory. It is the third straight year in the last eight for Berdych, who had a point to lead Rafa Nadal by two sets to love at the same stage last year only for the Spaniard to storm back for victory.

“Many people (talk about) that backhand volley,” Berdych said of that missed opportunity against Nadal. “I saw it a couple of times on the TV. Still, I was the one on court playing the situation. Maybe it looks easier than the volley was. It was not something like when I missed against John Isner in the final in Winston-Salem. That was an easy backhand volley which I will see for a couple of years. This one was a tough shot.”